Food Interactions with MAOI Antidepressants

An MAOI antidepressant offers the hope of a fuller recovery, but it comes with a few food restrictions that must be followed carefully. These foods contain tyramine, which can cause dangerously high blood pressure when combined with an MAOI (symptoms of this life-threatening reaction include headaches, heart problems, nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances, and confusion. Go to an emergency room if you suspect you are having it).

Follow these guidelines from the day you start taking an MAOI until 3 to 4 weeks after you stop taking it. If you are taking the Emsam patch, this warning only applies to the 9 or 12mg dose.

Do not eat any of these

  • All aged and mature cheeses. (The only cheeses that are okay to eat are: cottage cheese, cream cheese, ricotta, part-skim mozzarella, and processed cheeses like American, if refrigerated for no more than 2 to 3 weeks).
  • All improperly stored meats, fish, and poultry.
  • Air-dried sausages such as pepperoni, summer “dry” sausage, salami, pastrami, and mortadella.
  • Fermented soy products including soy sauce, teriyaki, soybean paste, fermented bean curd (fermented tofu), miso soup, tamari, natto, shoyu, and tempeh.
  • All tap beers.
  • A few foods that are rarely eaten in the US: Fava or broad bean pods, banana peel, Vegemite and Marmite spreads

Limit these to no more than two servings per day

  • Wine (one serving = 4 oz)
  • Bottled or canned beer (including non-alcoholic) (one serving = 12 oz)
  • Liqueurs or distilled spirits (one serving = 1.5 oz)

Other Guidelines

  • Everything you eat must be very fresh, or properly frozen.
  • Store all fresh packaged meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products in the refrigerator/freezer immediately. Eat allowed refrigerated meat products within 3 to 4 days. Eat allowed refrigerated cheeses within 2 to 3 weeks. Avoid foods if you are unsure of their storage conditions.
  • There are many non-prescription and prescription medicines you must avoid. Tell your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist that you are taking an MAOI medication before taking any other medicines, either over-the-counter or prescription.
  • Be especially aware of diet or weight-reducing drugs; sinus, hay fever, or cold medicines; nose sprays or drops; asthma inhalants or tablets; cough medicines; and herbal stimulants like ginseng and ma huang (Ephedra).